Friday, March 2, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Playing in Poland.

  Every Spring, about this time, my anxiety level rises to its yearly-high. Summer is quickly approaching, and my basketball season starts coming to a close. I'm sure you're wondering, what's exactly to be anxious about?

  The end of a season marks the end of another contract. And with the end of a contract comes decision time. Do I play another basketball season in Europe? And if so, where? It's the case where one question leads to another. And then another, depending on how you answer each preceding question.

  Decision time, it seems, is coming earlier and earlier each year. It used to be that I didn't even think about the following season until I was in the midst of my summer/off-season. I would play it by ear. See what opportunities arose, both in the US and in Europe, and go from there. But more-recently, I have found that teams are making inquiries about the next season earlier than they have in the past. Or maybe, it is me that is wanting an answer earlier and earlier every year?

Love my summers!
  On the one hand, it's great to have your destination for the upcoming season in the books. You can enjoy your summer, and not worry 'will I have a team to play for?' as the off-season progresses. Call it job security. You know exactly where you will be come September, so you're able to focus on your workouts, and enjoy spending time with the family and friends you miss-out on seeing seven or eight months out of the year.

  But if you're wanting to see all possible opportunities, both on the court and off, you want to try to delay Decision Day as much as you can. The further you get into the off-season, the more teams have contacted you, giving you more on-the-court possibilities to choose from. While you're fielding inquiries from potential teams in Europe, it also gives you the opportunity to put out feelers into the 'real' world, and see what the working world has to offer.

Beautiful -- Dunkerque.
  Networking and navigating the US job-market is a difficult thing to do while in Europe. The time change (I'm nine hours ahead of my home timezone!) makes direct contact a difficult feat. It's something you really have to be committed to. And relying on email isn't going to cut it. Taking into account the number of emails people receive each day, the likelihood that they want to answer your job-market questions becomes minuscule. So networking becomes far-easier when you're on US soil.

  Are these excuses? Maybe so. Maybe I just need to put forth more effort.

  One thing I can say without hesitation, is that I've always had a difficult time turning down a good contract. If it's a good opportunity/location, the money makes sense, and you still love to play the game, how can you say no? Especially when you have nothing else lined up (as in, nothing solid waiting for you when you return home to the US). I've never thought that was good business to turn down a job. Maybe I'm too cautious that way.
Great teammates -- Sweden.

   So how exactly do I go about making that yearly decision of whether to play another season?

  First and foremost, am I healthy? As a professional athlete, your body is your money-maker. And if you aren't able to cut it on a consistent basis, it might be time to find a new profession.

  Secondly, do I still love what I am doing? If you wake up in the morning, and you dread going to practice, or you no longer have the passion to put in the extra work, chances are you aren't
going to enjoy yourself as much as you should be.

  These are the two major questions I ask myself before I make any sort of decision. There are other factors that affect my choice as well, such as potential teammates, location of team, previous experiences, and so on. But health and passion for the game, will always remain the two deciding factors.

  In all likelihood, you're not going to find something that tops the profession I have right now. I have to say it's a pretty great gig. But it isn't forever either. So when does it become the time to start writing a new chapter?

  Some people have their mid-life crises, or quarter-life crises. I, on the other hand, like to have my annual life crises. :) One thing that eases my mind is reminding myself that there is NO wrong decision. Whatever I choose, I will be successful at it, and I will be happy. But with professional sports, it's something that you want to be 100% sure about. When you're done, you're done. There's usually no going back once you've called it quits (unless your name is Brett Favre). So you need to be sure. And the contrary is true as well. You don't want to play a season too long, and not have your heart in it.

Fun experiences abroad -- Sweden.
  For nine years I have chosen to play 'one more season'. Maybe I should make it a nice round number, and go for season 10. What do you think?


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  1. The Power of 10... there must be 10 good reasons why you'd play again, and maybe 4 why you wouldn't. That's just my 10 cents. :)